Sooner or later, every young man who can be called a teen idol will sprout a chest hair, get a driver's license and decide that hugs from little girls are no longer reward enough for creative output.
Turning away from the tween fan base is tough, though. The 11-year-olds who love you sooooo much aren't going to disappear just because you decide you want to be taken seriously as an artist.
Case in point: Bow Wow, the 18-year-old rapper who has been trying to discourage schoolgirl crushes since his voice started changing. But he's finally figured a way to escape the pages of Teen People: faking his own death.
The headliner of "Scream Tour IV: The HeartThrobs" pulled the stunt near the end of his set during "Big Dreams," a somber track about youths falling victim to the streets, from his latest album, "Wanted." Dressed in a white suit, Bow Wow rapped while surrounded by cloak-clad dancers carrying a coffin. At the end of the song, MCI Center went dark for several moments and, when the lights came up, our hero Bow Wow was lying inside the casket. Typical Scream Tour shrieks of prepubescent passion gave way to cries of: "Mommy! What happened to Bow Wow?"
And in case the thousands of youngsters at Friday's concert didn't gather from the fake funeral that the Bow Wow of old is dead, the teen withheld his usual laughter and smiles during most of his time onstage, even mean-mugging his way through sugarcoated songs that made him a star, such as the fan-appreciation track "Thank You."
The tough-guy affectations may have rattled the children waving his posters and wearing his T-shirts, but Bow Wow, even with a stony demeanor, was more kid-friendly than several of his tour-mates. Band of brothers B5 and crooner Bobby Valentino kept things rated "F" for family, but Pretty Ricky, Marques Houston and Omarion stage-humped their way into the hearts of ecstatic young women. And when simulated sex failed to get screams, they got cheers by proclaiming they were looking for a "very special lady" to be their girl.
Miami-based group Pretty Ricky mimicked low-rent exotic dancers with their puny muscles and incessant chatter. The quartet moaned its way through nasty cuts on their debut album, "Bluestars," but had the sense to perform "Grind With Me," the radio edit of the group's first hit single, rather than the racier album version, "Grind on Me." But lest the meaning of the original be lost, singer Pleasure rammed a hand down his pants while whining the hook.
Houston behaved himself for the most part, but the former Immature member couldn't help acting out his latest single, "Naked," perhaps to make up for the song's video, which was neutered to make it suitable for play on MTV and BET. Houston jumped into a big box, open in the front, save for a large strip of cloth covering his private bits, and shed all of his clothes, including a pair of blue boxers that one lucky teen apparently took home as a souvenir.
Omarion, technically the show's co-headliner, appeared onstage with Bow Wow, and they kicked off their pyrotechnic-filled set (during which they went back and forth, each performing a few songs at a time) with a rendition of R. Kelly and Jay-Z's "The Best of Both Worlds." As followers of the stars know, they fancy themselves the Kells and Hov of the junior high set, and to ears numb from four hours of hollering they almost kinda sound just a little bit like them.
The former B2K frontman balanced thuggish Bow Wow bangers such as "Fresh Azimiz" and "Do You" with light, bouncy cuts such as the Neptunes-produced "Touch," from his first solo album, "O." He did his share of chest-baring and chair-grinding, but, unlike his pornographic peers, any vulgarity Omarion displayed was diluted by his skilled, stylized dance moves.
Bow Weezy and O closed the show with the lighthearted duet "Let Me Hold You Now." The Luther Vandross-sampled tune was a natural finale, but a bit anticlimactic after an evening of playing possum, stripping and blood-curdling screams.